Love him or loathe him, you have to admire David Beckham and his achievements in football. Take away all the glamour of his public persona and you have a great footballer, one destined to leave his mark on the game forever.
I have always been a critic of Beckham. Yes he is one of the best set piece takers in the world. Of course we all know he can whip in a decent ball. But my opinion of him was tainted by the World Cup in 2006, and the events preceding the tournament. Until now.
In 2006 I wasn’t the only one. As a regular listener to radio phone ins, like BBC’s 606 and Talksport’s ‘Call Collymore’, frequently after every England game, in the lead up to the 2006 tournament, Beckham received a torrent of abuse from impatient fans.
Beckham, who was under-performing as England captain, received more criticism than most of the other players. Some deserved and some unfair.
It’s ironic looking back at his international career. For a player who is on the verge of equalling Bobby Moore’s 108 caps, he has had a far from easy international career. It has been full of high and lows.
At the World Cup 1998 in France, after being sent off in the quarter finals against Argentina, he was branded a disgrace by the English media and was blamed for England’s premature exit from the competition. However four years later he was lauded as a hero, as his last minute free kick, against Greece, booked England’s place in the 2002 World Cup.
In 2006, after England’s elimination from the World Cup in Germany, Beckham once again came under pressure. Many quarters of the media and the majority of fans believed that he wasn’t the right choice to lead England. Not only was his captaincy under threat but his selection in the starting line up was also under fire.
At his time at Real Madrid he was one of their best performers. During his three seasons there, he helped the ‘Los Blancos’ secure the league title. Even after having been dropped under Real’s coach Capello, and told he wouldn’t feature again under the Italian. With a move sealed to LA Galaxy, Beckham fought his way back in to the side. Capello acknowledged he had misjudged Beckham. And such was his influence in that final season at the club, the Spanish giants tried to untie his pending transfer to LA Galaxy.
Beckham’s move to LA Galaxy was heavily criticised. Seen as a move motivated by financial gain rather than for footballing reasons. Beckham denied the extravagant of money he was set to earn as a reason.
Personally, I felt that he had made the wrong choice and it would be detrimental to the remainder of his career. However despite this move, he earned a recall to the international set up under Steve McClaren. When called upon for his country he produced solid performances.
As Beckham took the field on Sunday in Milan’s league match against Bologna, I was intrigued to see if ‘golden balls’ showed any signs of the Beckham of old. In his two previous matches against Roma and Fiorentina, he hadÃ‚Â produced tidy performances, if slighty uninspiring.
Scrutinising his every move from the ‘Curva San Luca’, I was left pleasantly surprised! He produced a confident performance showing his masterful control of the ball and an astute footballing brain. Drifting infield, he allowed Zambrotta to bomb up and down the wing, dragging Bologna’s left back out of position time and time again.
His passing throughout the game was exemplary. As he sprayed 30-yard passes from the right hand side of the pitch to the left, the crowd applauded with shouts of ‘Vai Beckham!’ and ‘Bella’. He also showed the same tenacity we saw in his performance against Greece, in 2002.
He closed down every ball, and retreated providing cover for Zambrotta when needed. Beckham was helped by Milan’s youthful frontline and the fluid passing of his fellow midfielders. The pace of the game wasn’t frenetic and it suited the ageing Beckham.
Watching Beckham from the comfort of the television at home doesn’t do him justice. He is simply tireless. He was rewarded for all his hard work, with a goal in the second half after a silky passing move by Beckham. He bounded towards the adoring Milan fans. All the Milan fans instinctively celebrated as if he had been at the San Siro for many years.
The reaction of the players, who all ran over to congratulate Beckham showed that they too appreciate the qualities and experience that he brings to the team. It would be worthwhile for Milan to act and extend his stay at the San Siro.
After all, it’s a move that suits all parties. Beckham will be getting regular football in one of the most respected leagues in the world, ensuring his continued selection in the England set up. AC Milan will be receiving a player who offers ability and experience in abundance.
And the most important factor of all: Victoria gets to shop in the fashion capital of the world.
MORE: Man United latest news
MORE: Arsenal latest news
MORE: Chelsea latest news
MORE: Liverpool latest news